Common Mental Health Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety feels different for everyone. Examples of symptoms associated with anxiety are referenced but a player might also have other experiences or difficulties that are not listed here.

  • Bodily symptoms include feeling light-headed or dizzy, pins and needles, a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat, sweating, hot flushes and gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Behavioural symptoms include avoidance, difficulty sleeping, having panic attacks, seeking frequent reassurance.
  • Thoughts include rumination (thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again) or expecting the worst.
  • Feelings include worrying about anxiety itself (for example, worrying about when panic attacks might happen), or feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax.

Anxiety - Considerations for Elite Athletes

  • The setting of high standards is an integral part of elite sports, and often beneficial for the athlete's performance. However, individuals who have frequent thoughts about reaching ideal, perfectionistic standards, have been shown to be likely to experience heightened levels of anxiety.
  • Performance Anxiety is a common term in sporting contexts. It refers to a fear or anxiety aroused by the requirement to perform (or potentially perform) in front of an audience. Symptoms include increased heart rate, stomach complaints, trouble sleeping, negative self-evaluation, and/or constant thoughts about the upcoming performance. Performance anxiety is not considered a mental health disorder in and of itself and is typically classified under social anxiety or generalised anxiety disorder, depending on the specific symptoms.

Anxiety can be experienced in many ways. Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are listed below:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – this means having excessive or uncontrollable worries about many different things in everyday life.
  • Phobias - a phobia is an extreme fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as open spaces) or a particular object (such as spiders).
  • Social Anxiety – fear of being exposed to scrutiny or negative evaluation by others (e.g. media).
  • Panic Disorder - this means having regular or frequent panic attacks with or without a clear cause or trigger. Experiencing panic disorder can mean that the player feels constantly afraid of having another panic attack, to the point that this fear itself can trigger panic attacks.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - this is a diagnosis whereby a person develops anxiety problems after going through something they found traumatic (physical or psychological). PTSD can cause flashbacks or nightmares which can feel like they are re-living the traumatic event and they may begin to avoid situations or places that remind them of that event.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - this is an anxiety disorder characterised by repetitive thoughts, behaviours or urges. For example, an obsession with cleaning, physical appearance or illness.